ABC, NABET spar over ‘final’ offer

Alphabet spells out its 'fair' proposal to union

ABC’s contract negotiating team Monday revealed details of what it calls its final proposal for a pact with the National Assn. of Broadcast Employees & Technicians.

The union, which has been without a contract at ABC since March 31, 1997, received the proposal Friday with contempt, saying it did not differ “in any meaningful way” from previous offers from the net and calling it “a 300-page ransom note.”

But in a memo to employees, ABC defended the proposal, calling it “the best ABC would offer in these negotiations.”

“We believe this package is a fair one,” the negotiators wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Variety. “From the outset of these negotiations, we have underscored the company’s need to achieve a more level playing field in order to remain competitive in our industry — to achieve cost and operational efficiencies that NABET and other unions have agreed to with our competitors.”

Unfortunately, the net said, “The significant enhancements in our package proposal have been all but ignored by the highly politicized rhetoric surrounding the union’s early reports of the negotiations.”

Among other proposals, ABC says it will:

  • Increase wages 13% over a four-year and three-month period, including an immediate 3.5% boost upon ratification of the contract;

  • Permanently upgrade 650 local and network employees, which would result in “even higher wage increases for many of these employees, as well as significant pension benefit improvements”;

  • Give daily hires a payment, amounting to 3% of base pay, in lieu of pension benefits if they work for ABC more than 100 days a year.

The net is also offering to double severance pay for workers displaced by technological advances and to give San Francisco-based employees lump-sum payments to bring their wages into line with increases for NABET workers elsewhere.

Despite his harsh rhetoric last week, NABET spokesman Tom Donahue said the union’s hierarchy is reviewing the proposal and asking members to do the same.

A bargaining committee representative planned Monday to ask the federal mediator whether the hefty proposal is on disk so that it can be placed on NABET Web sites.

“We want everyone to have a chance to see it,” Donahue said. “We practice union democracy.”

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